USC wide receiver DeAngelo Smith (6) and quarterback Dylan Thompson (17) celebrate a Smith touchdown reception against ECU. (Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Dylan Thompson completed 21 of 37 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns to help No. 9 South Carolina (2-0) beat East Carolina 48-10 Saturday.
Thompson started the game in place of the injured Connor Shaw, and left little doubt coach Steve Spurrier made the right choice to let Shaw rest.
Thompson's first completion was a 53-yard pass to Damiere Byrd. He finished the game averaging almost 16 yards a completion and did not throw an interception.
The rejuvenated passing game allowed Spurrier to use star running back Marcus Lattimore sparingly. He gained 40 yards on 13 carries.
East Carolina (1-1) gained 403 yards. But the Pirates turned the ball over five times, including four interceptions and a fumble in just 16 plays.
Spurrier said this week that Shaw could play if he was needed after bruising his right shoulder in last week's win over Vanderbilt. But Thompson made his first start count. The sophomore threw two incompletions to start the game, but completed his next five passes as the Gamecocks jumped to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Thompson's passes looked sharp, in contrast to the way the Gamecocks threw the ball last week against the Commodores, when they completed seven throws for 67 yards. With UAB coming up next week, Spurrier might be tempted to keep Thompson behind center. His 330 yards passing beat Shaw's career best of 311 against Kentucky in 2011.
In fact, Thompson's only bad decision came late in the fourth quarter when he took on a defender as he tried to run the ball in for a touchdown on a third-and-19 with the Gamecocks up 31 points. Their helmets collided, and Thompson fumbled it away. Spurrier shook his head, smiled and patted his QB on the back when he got back to the sideline. Senior backup Seth Strickland came in to finish the game.
Spurrier kept passing the ball well into the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Ace Sanders took a lateral and threw a 16-yard touchdown to D.L. Moore to give the Gamecocks a 41-3 lead early in the 4th quarter as Spurrier won his 199th career game. Strickland threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rory Anderson with 44 seconds left.
Anderson caught four passes for 90 yards, and Bruce Ellington had four receptions for 63 yards. South Carolina quarterbacks completed passes to 11 different receivers and threw for 397 yards. The Gamecocks gained 528 yards total.
The Pirates were killed by turnovers. Rio Johnson got the start again at quarterback, but coach Ruffin McNeill turned the game over to Shane Carden at the start of the second half. Carden threw an interception on his first pass. Johnson came back, and threw another pick four plays later that South Carolina's Jimmy Legree returned for a touchdown to put the Gamecocks ahead 35-0.
Carden returned to the game and led the Pirates on their only two scoring drives, including waiting out the rush to throw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hardy that cut South Carolina's lead to 41-10 with nine minutes left in the game.
Carden was 12-of-18 for 140 yards and an interception, while Johnson completed 18 of 29 passes for 193 yards and three interceptions.
Hardy caught eight passes for 111 yards for East Carolina.
It was a good day all the way around for Gamecocks fans. The school opened its new $30 million tailgating area across from the stadium and started a tradition that has the players walk through the crowd to the stadium. The area included trees whose leaves will change color to South Carolina garnet instead of Clemson orange in the fall. The school also turned on its new 36-foot tall, 124-foot wide video board that cost $6.5 million.